Swaminarayan (Gujarati: સ્વામિનારાયણ, Devanagari: स्वामीनारायण, IAST: Svāmīnārāyaṇa) (3 April 1781 – 1 June 1830), also known as Sahajanand Swami, is the central figure in a modern sect of Hinduism known as the Swaminarayan Faith, a form of Vaishnavism. Within the faith, Swaminarayan is equated with the Supreme Being, Purna-Purushottama, or is venerated as an incarnation of Narayana from the Nara-Narayana deity pair.

Swaminarayan was born Ghanshyam Pande in Chhapaiya, Uttar Pradesh, India in 1781. In 1792, he began a seven-year pilgrimage across India, adopting the name Nilkanth Varni. He settled in the state of Gujarat around 1799. In 1800, he was initiated into the Uddhav Sampraday by his guru, Ramanand Swami, and was given the name Sahajanand Swami. In 1802, his guru handed over the leadership of the Uddhav Sampraday to him before his death. Sahajanand Swami held a gathering and taught the Swaminarayan mantra. From this point onwards, he was known as Swaminarayan and regarded as an incarnation of God by his followers. The Uddhav Sampraday became known as the Swaminarayan Sampraday.

Swaminarayan developed a good relationship with the British Imperial Government. He had followers not only from Hindu denominations, but also from Islam and Zoroastrianism. He built six temples in his lifetime and appointed 500 paramhansas to spread his philosophy. In 1826, Swaminarayan wrote the Shikshapatri, a book of social principles. He died on 1 June 1830 and was cremated according to Hindu rites in Gadhada, Gujarat. Before his death, Swaminarayan appointed his nephews as acharyas to head the two dioceses of Swaminarayan Sampraday.

Swaminarayan is also remembered within the faith for undertaking reforms for women and the poor, performing yagnas or fire sacrifices on a large scale as well as performing miracles. He has, however, been criticised by religious leaders such as Swami Dayananda who questioned the acceptance of Swaminarayan as God. Swaminarayan had an estimated 1.8 million followers when he died. Currently, his following is estimated between 5 and 20 million.

Read more about Swaminarayan:  Childhood As Ghanshyam, Travels As Nilkanth Varni, Leadership As Sahajanand Swami, Temples and Ascetics, Scriptures, Relations With Other Religions and The British Government, Death and Succession, Following and Manifestation Belief

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